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The Vanilla Old Fashioned

The Vanilla Old Fashioned

Warm up a traditional old fashioned cocktail with classic vanilla sugar. This is sure to be a winter favorite.
By Emily Clifton

The Vanilla Old Fashioned

Like our Maple Syrup version, this modern update on the classic Old Fashioned combines the warmth of vanilla bean with fresh orange peel and citrus bitters. The result is a little sweet, very smooth and dangerously drinkable.

Of course most of us associate the smell of vanilla with baking, but it can be used in much more than just cookies and cakes.

This cocktail uses vanilla to highlight the toasty, rich flavors that bourbon naturally gets from aging in oak barrels. The bitterness of orange peel and a splash or two of citrus bitters balances it out, so while you can taste the bourbon, it’s not overwhelming.

The Vanilla Old Fashioned

See Also

  • Vanilla is expensive so if you use it often, you can usually find a good deal on eBay. Note that ‘Grade A’ is top quality and will have the highest moisture content. ‘Grade B’ (sometimes called extract quality) is dryer and is more suitable for making extract and vanilla sugar.
  • Don’t throw away leftover dried vanilla-bean pods! Use them to make vanilla-bean sugar by putting them in a large, sealable container and covering them with granulated sugar. Just replenish with additional sugar and add vanilla-bean pods as you accumulate them. It will take a week or so for the sugar to take on the vanilla flavor.
  • You can also make vanilla-bean sugar quickly. Cut a vanilla pod into 1-inch pieces and add to a food processor along with one cup granulated sugar. Pulse until the bean is finely ground and fully mixed with the sugar. Store in an air-tight container and use just as you would regular sugar.

Note: If you don’t want to make Vanilla-Bean Sugar you can also make this cocktail by simply muddling a 1-inch piece of vanilla bean into a glass with 1 tablespoon of sugar and a 1-inch piece of orange zest. 

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The Vanilla Old Fashioned

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Emily Clifton
  • Yield: 1 cocktail 1x


Warm up a traditional old fashioned cocktail with classic vanilla sugar. This is sure to be a winter favorite.


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla-bean sugar (see note above)
  • 3 dashes bitters (preferably orange or citrus)
  • 1– inch piece orange peel
  • Vanilla bean or orange wedge for garnish (optional)


  1. Combine the vanilla sugar, bitters, orange peel and a splash of water in the bottom of a rocks glass. Use a muddler or the bottom of a wooden spoon to crush the sugar into the zest until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add ice cubes (1 large one is best, if you have it) and pour the bourbon over the ice. Stir for a few seconds, then garnish with a vanilla bean or a wedge of orange, if desired. Serve immediately.
  • Category: Cocktail, Drink


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